First of all, we hope all of you are managing to stay safe and well and, for those of you who are on holiday, we hope you have had a good break. It has been an unprecedented year in all sorts of ways: some very difficult (COVID-19), challenging (Brexit), others terrifying (the climate emergency), and some more hopeful of a brighter future (Black Lives Matter). Personally, I remain optimistic and hope and expect 2021 will be a year of recovery and regeneration. I have no wish for things to return to ‘normal’ but I do wish for the world to emerge different and better. How we achieve this, is by listening to new and seldom heard voices who can shed light on new ways of being and new ways of thinking.
This is needed in the world of mental health every bit as much as in every other aspect of our lives. This is where the GBO has a small, but significant part to play in the new recovery. For those of you who work with the GBO tool, you will know that it is primarily a tool to facilitate better collaborative working. It generates a discussion about what the aims of the work together might be, it gives focus to the joint work between therapist and client and, most importantly of all, it invites us to hear the voice of the other. The numbers generated, in rating the tool, should always be seen as an invitation to a conversation, to help understand the other’s view of progress and facilitate a discussion to help continue the work together. The numbers are also a useful by-product, that can be used to build practice-based evidence to show which interventions work in real world settings.
The GBO is a feedback tool that also has its uses as an outcome measure. An outcome measure that tracks progress on the thing most important to the client and not the things that (predominantly white, western, male) academics feel we should measure. Admittedly, such ideographic tools create some headaches for statisticians, but this is for us to work out how best to make sense of what is important, rather than to measure what is easy. Part of the new recovery will necessitate us doing things differently, doing what is right, even though it might be hard, rather than doing what is easy, because this is what we have always done.
It has been an unprecedented year in the life of the GBO. In the UK, the GBO remains one of the most popular tools across child mental health services, well-liked by practitioners and clients. 2020 saw it become an officially mandated metric in the NHS Digital’s dataset, after a protracted trial period. Thousands of new practitioners are being trained in using the tool as part of the NHS new workforce strategy. To complement the traditional paper-based versions of the tool, and to meet with the demand as most therapy services went on-line, an interactive PDF version of the GBO was developed. Alongside this there have been interesting developments in digital versions of the tool: with permission, it is been incorporated into the Anna Freud Centre’s POD system and there has been an interesting pilot using client generated avatars in Herefordshire and Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust (a paper should be published in early 2021). Also of course, there is the longstanding research collaboration with CORC and the usual string of papers including the use of the GBO in paediatric settings, and commissioned paper for a special edition of the Journal of Clinical Psychology.
The GBO is licensed under Creative Commons, meaning it is free to use by anyone, anywhere, always. Its development is entirely self-funded and it remains assertively independent of any organisation or institution. This freedom of use, along with its utility, have led to a global uptick in interest and use of the tool. It has now been translated into 7 different languages and we hope to add more in 2021. We were particularly pleased to enlist help to translate the tool into Russian, following a visit in late 2019 to the XVI European Congress of Psychology in Moscow. This has led to an international reach like never before: in the past year, there has been interest in the tool and its philosophy, across five continents (see the map below). Despite the COVID crisis leading to many plans being postponed – notably a collaboration with Western Australia, many initiatives have gone ahead, despite the difficulties, including: collaborations in Norway with the excellent BUP and University of Northern Norway, the submission of a promising research proposal in Aahus, Denmark, and the finalising of an implementation focused research trial with CHEO in Ontario, Canada.
So, what of 2021? We are excited that we will finally see the GBO take centre stage at the postponed, first, international CAPA conference hosted by our colleagues in Nova Scotia, Canada in May, albeit virtually. A new chapter is in progress on a book on Low Intensity Interventions in child mental health settings, (COVID permitting) there will be face-to-face workshops in Norway and Australia, and work continues on an Italian translation of Cooper & Law (eds) (2018) ‘Working with Goals in Psychotherapy & Counselling’ OUP.
We want to end with a big ‘thankyou’ to all of you who have shown interest in the GBO and recognise its value. We would love to hear from you about your experiences of using it, as practitioner or client, feel free to get in touch with us using the contact form below. We would love to hear your tips, ideas, struggles and successes. Also, if you can help with translations of the form, we would love to hear from you too – we would particularly like to make the tool freely available across Africa and India – if you can help with Swahili, Urdu, Hindi, Gujarati translations etc. get in touch.
Finally, we wish you all a safe, successful and happy 2021; we hope you are able to make progress towards the goal of a better and brighter new future for ALL.